This tympanum, created between
1130 and 1135, is noteworthy not only for its place among the great masterpieces
of Romanesque sculpture, but
also because it is signed. Its creator, Gislebertus, shows his style in
all of the cathedral's sculpture. Experts detect in his work the mark of
the workshops at Vezelay and perhaps Cluny, where he could have trained,
but otherwise nothing is known about him.
This tympanum, one of the most dramatic and frightening depictions of
the Last Judgment in existence, was deemed excessively primitive and vulgar
by Enlightenment aesthetics, and was plastered over in 1766. As Christ's
head stood too much in relief for the plasterer's trowel, it was simply
removed. This action had the fortunate consequence of preserving the tympanum
from Republican fury only 25 years later. The arched lintel was rediscovered
and restored in 1837, but Christ's head was not identified and returned
to its proper place until 1948.